Bands that live in the realm of genre crossovers are often faced with the problem of being more attuned with one of their genres than the others, hence their sound is often “prime-genre-with-other-stuff-sparkled-in”. Then there are the rare artists that perfectly execute both genres simultaneously, but there are so few that are so adept at this craft that one can easily count them with both their hands. Then we have the extremely polar genres of rave electronica and metal. While that combination sounds like a death wish, fans of Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas know by now that the band make it work way better than it has any right to. Yes, FALILV combine autotuned vocals, EDM and metalcore with a base of J-rock, and they pay each genre perfect respect, while also experimenting with more off-the-wall elements. And with each album they get braver and more creative with their sound. Feeling of Unity is their fourth album, out only a year after the superb Phase 2, and the band show no sign of slowing down – in fact they’re constantly taking their sound to the next level.
Alright, time for the obligatory explanation of what the hell FALILV are about, for those who have their eyebrows raised as high as they can go. The Japanese sextet from Kobe consist of Tomonori on drums, Kei on bass, Sxun and Taiki on guitar and backing vocals, Keisuke Minami performing screaming duties and playing the keyboard, and Aoi “So” Takeda on “clean” vocals which are autotuned T-Pain style. Yes, that sounds weird, but it’s actually brilliant, because it’s used as a combination of singing and a lead instrument like a keyboard. The band’s sound is built on a base of J-rock and creative metalcore riffing with fast-paced, clever drumming. Where things start to get interesting is the added element of synths in the vein of rave music. While in their earlier releases the band had clearly defined “metal sections” and “rave breakdowns”, as they go further into their career, they kept experimenting with blending the two together in different ways. They’re already at the point where the mix of styles is essentially seamless, though they do isolate elements for specific sections of songs as well. The vocals employ a trade-off style similar to most bands that have one clean singer and one screamer. Keisuke’s screaming voice is extremely distinct and his brand of high pitched shrieks are a great compliment to the riffing and So’s soothing autotuned voice. It’s not that So is a bad singer and he needs the pitch correction, it’s that the band’s sound is enhanced by the artificial and electronica-based nature of it. Adding on top of the already-irreverent brand of FALILV’s sound, they frequently take small detours into other genres like chiptune, jazz and other genres to spice up their sound, and it all works brilliantly. The key to the band’s success is in not taking two disparate genres and tacking them together while not doing a great job at either, but instead being really proficient in both styles, blending them masterfully then adding more on top so that the whole is more than the sum of its already-sufficient parts, while being absolutely irreverent.
I’ve already hinted at the direction of this album, but it’s time to further elaborate on that. While the band have had a pretty clear vision even in their debut album and they’ve kept it pretty consistent over the years, they’ve also continued to expand their grasp within the framework they have. Their sophomore album All That We Have Now first introduced the more experimental elements, then last year’s follow-up Phase 2 was basically a logical progression from its predecessor, expanding on the sound they already built. Feeling of Unity sees the band a bit more comfortable in their sound, with the disparate aspects of their sound being blended more consistently, transitions flowing more smoothly and the EDM parts often happening simultaneously with the metal parts. Instead of having song sections switch genres, they’re now having both genres at the same time and isolating one for certain parts, which works in the favor of the band’s sound. This album also brings back the more experimental elements from their sophomore release that were turned a bit down in Phase 2, but the main highlight is the better blend of the extreme ends of the band’s spectrum.
At this point, if you’ve heard Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas and are not already a fan of them, there’s nothing here that can change your mind, as Feeling of Unity sees the band stick to their brilliant formula and continuing refining it, but for those who appreciate their work, their fourth album is yet another great release continuing the band’s trend of making excellent music that’s so irreverent yet so precisely crafted.
Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas’ Feeling of Unity gets…